Conventional attack bad enough

Regarding the April 9 article “PAC-3 batteries deployed as North Korea threatens missile launch“: Russian President Vladimir Putin, who oversees a vast military nuclear complex, has warned that any nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula “could make Chernobyl look like a fairy tale.”

The game-changer here could be the fact that South Korea has 23 nuclear reactors (at four sites) providing one-third of South Korea’s electricity. Its longer-term aim, reaffirmed in mid-2011, is to provide 59 percent of electricity from 40 units by 2030.

Were North Korea to use precision missiles armed with conventionally tipped warheads to target the irradiated spent nuclear fuel in cooling ponds adjoining these reactors — the cooling buildings are not hardened for protection against attack as the adjoining nuclear reactors are — it would release many times the radioactivity released in the Chernobyl accident (1986), and make the Fukushima accident look comparatively minor.

While blowback would ensure that North Korea would itself suffer from radioactive fallout, desperate beleaguered despots do crazy things when cornered.

Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants and associated facilities provide a further regional hazard if conflict were to escalate.

For more detailed horror, see the 1985 Foreign Affairs article by former U.S. State Department official and now University of California academic Bennett Ramberg, “Nuclear Power Plants As Weapons For the Enemy: An Unrecognized Military Peril” (www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/39702/andrew-j-pierre/nuclear-power-plants-as-weapons-for-the-enemy-an-unrecognized-mi).

david lowry
surrey, england

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.